Email November 27th 2007

Fish 2007 - Polish Odyssey (part 3)

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the company,

From the wilderness of Lodz to the splendour of Bydgoszcz and a day off. We needed it. The lack of sleep on the bus was taking its toll as was the diet. Paul was down with the runs as was Foss. Tara had terrible stomach cramps. Yatta's shoulders were a mess. He has arthritis in both joints as well as damaged vertebrae at the top of his spine. The constant battering through the bus from the road systems was making his bunk a hellish experience. I could hear him moaning some nights as the pain crawled through the morphine. The bus had become "Das Boot"!
We arrived in the city in the early afternoon and parked up next to an alleyway in the main drag. We had to be exceedingly careful exiting the bus as the exit door was only a matter of inches from the passing tram cars that hurtled down into the centre. I headed up the alleyway to the hotel walking over disturbed cobbles and past mouldy doorways stinking of old piss. I didn't hold much hope for a decent room.
And then the Polish paradox sank in. It was a stunning hotel with a modern reception which led into a bar/nightclub/restaurant. Upstairs to my room, a designer suite with flat screen digital TV and satellite channels, a huge bed and a bathroom containing a giant Jacuzzi. And just to add to all that there was wireless connections for the computers, the first I had found in Poland. I was in heaven.
I settled in and ran the bath. It took nearly an hour to fill. CNN blaring in the main room I sank into the warm jets and lost myself for a while.
Food was next on the agenda. Tara was not well and stayed in her room as I headed out with McKinty towards the old town. Down the main street and over the bridge that spanned the crystal clear river that was the city's lifeline in days gone by. There we saw a life size bronze sculpture of a tightrope walker balanced precariously on a wire that hung 15 metres above the water and ran from bank to bank. Try as we might we couldn't fathom how the figure managed to stay there in high winds. It was a terrific feat of engineering. The small Scottish boy in me rose up for a moment and wanted to throw stones at it to see if he could knock it off!
I suppressed the urge but had to smile at myself for even thinking it. I mentioned it to McK and he laughed as he was thinking the same thing! :-D
Just over the river we came across a familiar sight. The red and yellow facia of "Roosters". We decided to play it safe and go for simple fare. On entering we discovered everyone else had the same idea. Most of the band and crew were already there and just to make it even better the "Old Firm" match was live on the TV.
It was quite surreal watching Rangers and Celtic playing in Glasgow while munching on burgers (with cabbage) and drinking gassy beer in the presence of scantily clad waitresses in an old Polish city. Just to add to that the next table had 6 guys who were teachers at the local English school, 4 from Scotland, including a Hearts supporter, the other two from North England. Beers were flowing and we joined company.
I had to get back to check on Taz and headed off with Frank and Foss, making a wee detour along the river bank and past the old mills and weirs. It was a beautiful day.
I picked up a meal at the McDonalds. Something I normally avoid but it was the only option as I knew she was hungry and highly suspicious of anything in breadcrumbs. She wasn't any better and was in fact getting worse. I would make a decision tomorrow. Tara really didn't want to go but we both knew that she needed a rest and time to recuperate if she was going to make it to the end of the tour.
I let her rest and headed downstairs to meet up with some of the others. I parked my PC on the bar and wired in for the first time since Holland. I downloaded 2700 emails! As usual, over 90% were spam and I spent the next hour sifting through the shit to find the ones that mattered. I was joined by Steve and Chris. It was more a computer club than a drinking session. We were all just overjoyed at getting back in contact with the "real" world.
That night was the England/South Africa final and with a large projection screen in the club we had our evening planned out. Dinner at a nearby restaurant was fabulous. Country soup followed by roast duck. Why can't we get this in the venues?
Back to the club and into our seats, the Scots at the rear and the expectant English contingent on the edge of theirs in the front row. During the first half I got into conversation with a Dutch guy who joined us at the table. I asked what he was doing in Bydgoszcz. He said he was our new monitor engineer! Doh! I had completely forgotten Paul was coming out to join us. Yatta had stolen him from the Eindhoven crew but as Paul had commitments to some other shows he could only make it out to join us now. He was arriving at just the right time as we were suffering on stage. After a few beers we all knew he was going to fit in!
The game was brilliant and one of the best I ever saw. The challenges and tackling had me wincing and I was only watching. But there was only going to be one outcome. The Scots were sympathetic and rounds were bought.
The sminky pinky disco was just starting and we flowed through. I hit the floor and was bouncing around on my own. My fitness level up and my weight down I was having a ball. At night my adrenalin levels always hit a high as my body clock enters Showtime. I ended up in a party of locals and ended up staring across the table and into the eyes of a dark haired Michelle Pfeiffer lookalike. Lots of smiles as we attempted conversation in broken simplistic German. She couldn't speak English and I obviously didn't speak Polish. It was so frustrating. Her friend acted as interpreter. Most of our team had vacated the building but I was still dancing.
I had been nursing the same beer for over an hour and it was getting late. "Michelle" was drawing me in but my alarm was going off. She was acting very strange. When she disappeared to the bar I asked her friend if she was a bit mad!
"Oh most definitely yes! She is 38, is not married, has no children, has no boyfriend. In Poland that is not right. It says a lot about someone!" I laughed. Great to be talked up by your friends like that! But it had been wonderful to flirt and just to stare into those eyes for a while and dream. It seemed my "nutter magnet" was still working! :-D
We said our farewells and parted. It was time for bed.

Sunday 21st October Bydgoszcz Filharmonia Pomorski
The old philharmonic hall in the centre of a glorious park with fountains and modern sculptures. A grand building with a grand history. The backstage area has special rooms for the orchestral conductors and soloists with grand pianos, sumptuous chaise longues, oil paintings, carpeted floors and candelabras. Yatta took over the best room straight from the bat. We got the orchestra room with lino floors and large tables. There was no smoking throughout the building so we had to perch on balconies if we wanted a drag. It was a long day.
It was obviously a seated venue with perfect acoustics and a large stage area. The load in had gone well after we had to turn a road sign 90 degrees to get the bus down a narrow road to the venue. Watching Woody on Vinny's shoulders battering the sign round was pretty comic.
No MPIK today and as it was election day it was quite busy in town.
The acoustics made it a difficult venue for an "electric" show as the sound bounced around the hall and it was boomy on stage.
Dinner at the hotel restaurant. Mystery meat in breadcrumbs with cabbage again. Taz was not well and I made an executive decision. My ex wife was going to meet us in Wroclaw the next day and take Tara to Berlin, only a couple of hours drive away, for a couple of days. She had wanted our daughter to stay with her until the end of the tour in Luxembourg but Tara had declined. She would be away from us for 3 days, returning to us at Katowice. We were all glad as she had become an integral part of the team now.
Tara slept on the bus all day. I really felt for her.
Gavin had joined Foss, Paul Kennedy and Chris J with the stomach bug and were all now regulars in toilet cubicles. I was feeling great after a day off.
We hit stage and went on a roll. The crowd weren't as wild as the previous shows but that was to be expected in a seated venue. A different approach with the stage lending itself to drama. They came with us and we built them up. The Vigil walk through was brilliant but on the steps down to the stage from the back of the hall were narrow and I felt a slight tightening in my legs.
We began "White Russian" and I was "Masai warrior" jumping on the spot in time to the intro. I hadn't noticed that I'd moved over the hydraulic platform used to lift pianos on stage from below. It was ever so slightly below the stage level but that quarter inch made a difference. As I came down on the balls of my feet my right shoe hit the stage first and so all my weight was on that foot. I felt the tear and screamed out. Gavin heard me above the drums off mike. I managed to finish the set and hobbled through the encores.
After show I went out to the balcony and laid my leg up on the now freezing cold granite. I'd initially thought I had damaged my Achilles tendon but on examination I found that I'd torn my calf muscle. It wasn't as bad as it could have been. A torn Achilles would have put me out for weeks. A muscle can repair relatively quickly and as I was reasonably fit and healthy and if I watched what I was doing it wouldn't affect the shows.
I was already taking anti-inflammatories for my throat and with the immediate cold applied together with an arnica oil massage in Dusters after show I had taken the anger out of the muscle. Next day I was booked to see a physio who specialised in kick boxers and fighters so I would be in the right hands.
The gig had gone down exceptionally well and we hit a 9.6/10 despite my immobility on the encores!
Another long night on "Das boot", 7 hours to Wroclaw taking hits all the way.

Monday 22nd October Wroclaw, Klub Muzyczny.
I slept till 2 and then off for a shower and then to the physios. Tara and I said goodbyes as I was going directly to the MPIK and would be lucky to get to sound check. I headed off in a taxi with Woody and drove for miles to a house in the suburbs. The physio was originally supposed to come to the show at 3 but changed his mind as he didn't know where the club was. This drastically changed our plans. It took me nearly 30 mins to get to him. A brick outhouse of a man who in his youth must have been a formidable fighter. I wouldn't like to mess with him now even in his 60's. He treated me in a room off his living room on a small table and as I though diagnosed a torn calf muscle. A massage that had me squirming as he probed with his powerful fingers and ironed out the creases. He told me I'd moved two vertebrae as well which I think had as much to do with the bus as the jump on stage. He manipulated my spine and as I was crushed under him I felt the bones crack into place. All the time Woody and him gibbered away incessantly in Polish as he pummelled my aching body back into shape. The TV jabbered in the background and I could hear his wife clattering in the kitchen as I lay at his mercy. He bandaged a support on my calf, shook my hand and we got back in the taxi for a long ride through rush hour to MPIK. I was told that if I watched it and kept up the stretching exercises I religiously did pre gig then I would be OK in 3 days.
We were horrendously late for the signing but thankfully there were only around 20 or so people there. It was ridiculous having signings at that time as most people were at work at 4.30. It went relatively quickly and then as I went outside to the expected taxi I found out that we were walking back to the gig as it was quicker than by road. Just what I needed!! It took around 20 mins to get there in the freezing cold.
Tara was still there, in a lot of pain and incredibly pissed off as her mother was over 4 hours late. I managed a sound check of sorts and the off to the nearby restaurant for cucumber and gherkin soup (?) followed by a dodgy bit of salmon and cabbage.
Most of the guys weren't eating. Steve V took out a tin of Heinz beans from his pocket in the restaurant and emptied them on the plate. He was having the most problems with the food. Everyone was losing weight rapidly.
Another over-subscribed gig, we had around 650 people in a venue that looked as if it were meant for 350 or so. It was a sweat box. I noticed Tara's Mum enter backstage and minutes later they were waving goodbye as I started "Perception". I was going to miss my daughter as we all would. She was one of us now.
I winced a few times when I forgot that I was carrying an injury but otherwise the support bandage did the trick. The crowd were brilliant and we rattled up a 9.7/10.
Another long journey tonight, this time to the far east and close to the Ukrainian border. 10 hours in the tumble drier and it was going to get a lot colder!

Tuesday 23rd October Lublin, Graffiti
We were as far east as we would get on this tour so far. It was freezing and I stayed in my bunk as long as possible. A couple of the guys made a foray toward town as the club was in a pretty drab area with nothing to do or see in the immediate vicinity. They came back with the bad news that "13th Star" was already pirated and being sold on some of the shabby street stalls. A photocopied cover and a printed CD in a plastic cover! The gig was sold out and the locals were proclaiming it as a "major cultural happening". International bands didn't come out here and as such the venue wasn't geared up. The crew had to practically rewire the PA and monitor system which ate into the day. The dressing rooms were a VIP area near the bar with only a small chain across the entrance guarded by a monster security guy clad in the obligatory black uniform separating us from the public. The room was dimly lit and had various nude and scantily dressed women framed on the walls in provocative poses. The leather couches in the shadows and the adverts for sex web sites on the mirrored tables added to our conclusion that this area was more of an "undressing room"!
There were no showers apart from in a hotel up the road that no-one could be bothered to use. The staff was friendly and the coffees endless. I waited on my MPIK visit.
The taxi finally reversed out into a wacky races circuit and we headed up into the city. The centre was beautiful with wide open park spaces around granite, pillared palaces and galleries. The MPIK, as always, was smack bang in the middle of a glittering shopping centre. The fans were gracious and smiling and made the session easy. There was a lot of excitement and they were genuinely thankful to us for making the effort to get to them.
Back to the gig where the sound check hadn't even begun. It was getting late and we had to break for dinner before a note was played. The food was, as usual, close to inedible. We huddled in jackets in the VIP room. Gavin had serious runs as had Foss, Paul K, Steve and Chris J. Dutch Paul was tearing his hair out at the set up. If he leaned on the monitor desk the wrong way levels would change and buzzes and clicks would emanate from the pitiful wedges. The house guy told him to hit the desk on the edge to correct it. We had to put up with it.
The PA was designed for a club not a gig and all the signs were that it was a rarity for bands to play here. This was a nightclub. Strangest thing was that the local police station was attached to the club and we could see right into the reception desk and the officers changing shift and heading out on the beat through a door next to the bar. No excuse there for quick response time if it kicked off!
We waited on the gig.
As I waited on the rig to be put in some sort of working order I was ushered by Woody for a quick interview for a TV local cable station. I was suddenly faced with a camera and an interviewer who put a mike to my face "Hi we are from Disabled TV channel! What do you think about disabled people? Do you know any disabled people? What are your experiences of disabled people?" I was dumbstruck as a small guy in a wheelchair was pushed into frame. It was an embarrassing moment. I was caught out completely but rallied and gathered my thoughts quickly.
I answered the initial questions and then pulled it round into the questions to them about disabled access at gigs, of which there had been very little, if any at all, in most of the clubs we'd played. It turned out into quite an interesting discussion. After the camera was off the wee guy in the chair was wheeled through to the hall with his friend who was also badly disabled and unable to talk. The "helpers" then carried them up a steep flight of stairs and parked them on a landing on a fire escape, out front, stage right. They had to sit through an entire sound check that took over an hour to sort out. I suggested that it perhaps was a bad idea as the drums alone took over 20 mins to check. I was told it was OK! We all just felt really sorry for the two guys who would be sat up there for the next four hours. I was told afterwards that they really enjoyed the experience. That at least made me happy. What do I know?

With the walk from the VIP area to the stage taking us through the sold out, packed crowd there was no way we would be returning until after encores. We were tired, hungry, ill and struggling to get up for the two hours of show time.
But we always did. The crowd gave us so much that it was impossible to not feed of their energy and return it with smiles. Lublin, despite the crappy sound system was a huge success and we ran out 9.8/10. Afterwards we talked to the promoter and club owner and tried to get him to see the benefit of putting together a better rig. The point being that if he did there would be more bands willing to swing into town if the club got a good rep. A shrug of the shoulders and the sincere and sad answer "If we could only get the money". I was reminded of the realities of being out in the relative wilderness of Poland and away from the major cities that attracted the Western investment that spun the wheels. I'd still go back there despite everything. The people are so genuine and honest it gets you in the heart.
No showers and onto the bus. My calf muscle had held up and was repairing. I was missing bouncing about with Chris who had made a point that night of "tiggering" around me like a demented loon with a big smile on his face. We'd developed a bunch of synchronised jumping moves in the set and I was feeling a bit left out :-)
Tonight we were heading west. The bus rumbled through the night. The symphony of snoring accompanied us on the familiar bruising ride.

Wednesday 24th October, Day off Zabrze
Foss and Paul K were really bad with the stomach bug and a familiar phrase was being used. "Just taking my arse for a pee!"
Introductions on stage were "from cubicle 1..." The day off was welcome. I climbed out of my bunk at midday and headed for the hotel. We were in the middle of nowhere. The hotel was a kind of kid on Novotel. I went up to my room to discover it was a single bed. I came downstairs again and asked for a double bed room. I was told smartly that they didn't have one available. The place seemed empty. Woody came in and I told him the score. Next thing he was on the mobile to Metal Minds office and they phoned someone who phoned someone in the hotel group who phoned someone at the hotel and next thing I was told they had a double bed available. I was told it would take a few minutes to sort the room out and so I sat in the reception area for 15 minutes. Given the key I once again headed up in the elevator to my new "superior" room. I was deflated to discover the "double" bed was actually two singles pushed together. The wooden frames maintaining a minor ravine between the mattresses. I gave up.
The one blessing was a wireless network in my room. I downloaded and surfed for a few hours with a few glasses from a squirreled bottle of vodka and a carton of apple juice. I'd found out that the city centre was a hike and a half away. Maybe later. Unbelievably, there was an English language film on TV. I missed the beginning but was pulled into the story of a young girl searching for her uncle who turned out to be a Vietnam war veteran coming to terms with anger and guilt over 9/11. It was an intriguing story, the script and acting excellent, the filming wonderful. It raked a couple of hours off the day. I wasn't surprised to find out from the credits that it was a Wim Wenders movie but still to this day I don't know the title.
Hunger called and I headed to the restaurant. Food was nearly OK, but the wine! A "dry" white Burgundy that to put it mildly was bloody awful. A joke bottle, so sweet and sickly I had to leave it and went back to my room. I called Yatta to find out what was going on. He was down in town with Paul K and Steve. He urged me to come down so I jumped in a cab. Big mistake. The bar was nearly empty and they were three sheets to the wind. I had one drink and then it was "right, let's find somewhere else!"
20 minutes later we were still walking through a near deserted city centre trying to find an alternative bar that was "happening".
We eventually jumped a taxi and told him to take us to the "VIP" bar advertised on a huge hoarding above the station.
It promised exotic dancers and a good time for all!
We arrived to find the girls were all working in another town that night and apart from a few people playing at a couple of the dozens of pool tables the place was near deserted. Zubrowkas and apple juice. I was the only relatively sober one in the party. Paul was futilely trying to chat up the barmaids. I just wanted to go back to the hotel. One of the worst days off I can remember.
We got there eventually and I went straight to bed. The rooms were basic and some were so bad that Steve V actually checked out of the place and went to his bunk on the bus. I slept badly. I even made breakfast for the first time on the tour. At least Tara was back today. I'd missed her.

Thursday 25th October, Katowice, Mega Club
It was freezing outside and I think even colder in the venue. Luckily I arrived later as I had to make an interview with the biggest station in the area that reached around 5 million people. I was live at one in the afternoon. It was an old building with that "national radio station" vibe. Concierges and passes and marble stairs taking me up to the modern studios. There were a party of school kids on an arranged visit and I ended up sitting in the studio with around 20 kids beaming at me through the window from the control room. Bizarre.
It was a fantastic interview, the journalist a fan and well clued up on what I had been up to. I was on air for an hour with "Circle Line", "Arc", "13th Star" and "Zoe 25" all given plays together with "Internal Exile". I couldn't have asked for more.
It goes some way to explaining why the audience age at Polish gigs spans such a wide spectrum. I get radio play here unlike most other European countries where the only tracks that are played are mostly either Kayleigh or Lavender. To some people out there I stopped making music after I left Marillion! In Poland however it's a completely different affair. And it also shows in the gig attendances and the media attention. If only I could duplicate this elsewhere.
Back in the freezing, dusty venue which was in the middle of a landscape of rubble and rusting unused railway lines just down from a major road system that fed the centre I sat and waited on my MPIK session. We were all suffering.
I hit the road in my cab to the shopping mall and got no further than a few hundred yards until the traffic bogged down. I sat for 15 mins in the same space and was close to calling off the signing session. I had a sound check to hit and I was already behind schedule.
Just as I was losing patience the lights changed and we skewed around a junction and headed back in the other direction. I was in the car park outside the mall in ten minutes. I then entered a glittering, sparkling shopping centre that wouldn't have been out of place in LA.
Fountains splashed and echoed in the immense glass area populated with every name store imaginable. The MPIK was also one of the best I'd been in with a far wider range of CDs than I'd yet seen. And just to make it perfect the store manageress was beautiful and flirting with me like crazy. The session was smooth and friendly and actually relaxing! Photos after and one with the manageress. And another, and another, she held my hand surreptitiously and smiled straight in my eyes. I melted. She said she was coming to the gig. I arranged passes.
Out of the store with Vinny leading the way. He was chuckling away and winking at me.
We were back at the venue in 5 minutes. We'd spent all day shivering in the backstage while only a short walk away was consumer paradise. More evidence of the polish paradox!
Tara had missed her flight from Berlin and her mother was driving her back to the tour. She arrived just short of doors. I spoke briefly with Tammi outside the club before she headed directly back to Germany. Tara was feeling a lot better and minutes after arriving was straight back at work on the stall. She has become a real pro!
Sound check done and dusted it was food time. The return of "Donkey Dick" in bread crumbs with cabbage and greasy chips. How come I can't find this in my local Tesco's Polish section? Because touring musicians eat up all available stock in the home country?
The gig was superb. It absolutely rocked. Best gig we'd ever played in Katowice! I mentioned the day off during the set and had a bit of a comedic dig at Zabrze. It seemed I wasn't the only one of that opinion :-) I actually had to apologise to the small clutch of fans from Zabrze that were at the gig. The reaction from the others was so intense. They were cool and were actually laughing themselves. "Incommunicado" now has the line "a villa in Zabrze, my own cocktail bar..!" Tonight was a 9.8/10
Everything was wonderful on the night apart from my teasing MPIK manageress didn't show! Showers and we drifted back to the bus. It was only a hop, skip and a jump to Krakow so we stayed on landline and parked up for the night outside the club. It was nearly over.

Friday 26th October, Krakow, Studio.
I'd played this gig before. In the middle of the university campus and a 15 minute ride to the centre it was a happening venue with the stage set in the corner. I slept late and only just managed to get a shower before rushing off to my last MPIK session. The taxi ride to the centre was a feast on my eyes. I love this city. Now in danger of being overrun by tourists taking advantage of cheap flights it's got a bit of a reputation for wild stag and hen parties and as such has lost a bit of its innocence. The architecture is formidable and the squares in the centre and the back streets peppered with arty shops and busking musicians make it a very special place.
I reached the MPIK to find Vinny all powered up. An easy session and then out to find a cab. Could we find one? I stood on the street for about twenty minutes as the manageress tried to call one. It was impossible. We ended up walking to another area of the city and eventually found a taxi whose driver refused to give a receipt to the manageress as he couldn't say how much the journey would cost. A comedy moment with Vinny exasperated, the manageress nearly in tears and the driver refusing to budge. I offered to pay for it myself and get the money back from Woody! No problem! They still jabbered away as my sound check moved into the distance. After about 15 minutes of negotiation I got in and headed back. On arrival he asked for more money. With the language barrier and a well muscled agitated taxi driver who I thought was taking the piss, I called Yatta who sent out Woody and a couple of security gorillas. I smiled at the would-be wide boy and walked off to let them "negotiate" in their native tongues. Problem solved.
An old friend who I'd originally met in Edinburgh and met again recently at the Manchester show had come across with a mate. She was staying at the nearby Novotel and was in weekend party mode. It was just as well because between gifts at the signing, presents delivered backstage and a friendly promoter we had nearly 6 bottles of Zubrowka! Scary!
My voice was shredding a bit, the lack of decent sleep, bad diet and general exhaustion wasn't helping recovery. Warm ups pre show were getting longer as I tried to coax the muscles into shape. My calf muscle had healed sufficiently enough to join "Fluffy Bunny" on our dance moves.
The gig was fantastic and again well up in the "best of" section. A rousing 9.9/10 and we left the Krakow fans ecstatic. "Last Straw" is one of the best closers we have ever had and rocked us out and into the night. Again a short journey so we parked up on land line.
As it was the usual early show we couldn't turn down the opportunity to get into the old town for a wee "swallie".
Tara hadn't had the chance to see the place and was in wonderment as we sauntered through the centre. The one benefit of the increase in tourism was that there was money being ploughed into the area and the old town was looking glamorous in its modern lighting. It was also exceptionally clean and mostly traffic free.
We settled into a Jazz club, turning down offers to jam with the house band. Zubrowka and apple juice was order of the day and we started our languid slide into passive oblivion. It was a very cool place, perfect for the apres show. Only Foss and Gavin were absent as they still had their bugs.
We were soon meshing with a hen party from the midlands. Tara and my friend were unimpressed as they took over our guys and proceeded to get totally wasted. Wearing false arses and up for any drinking challenge it was getting a bit too "British". Next thing one had her breasts out and was looking for a victim. A highly bemused Secret took them straight in the face and was buried in a heaving mound of flesh. The "Diddy man" became his second name! :-D Time to go.
My friend had lost her mate that afternoon and so a room had come up at the Novotel. How could I turn it down?
We left Tara at the bus with Secret and the others and walked to the hotel.
I woke up in heaven. Scented soaps, BBC World on the flat screen, hot gushing shower, fluffy towels, and a huge double bed. A far cry from Zabrze. I walked back to the bus and felt guilty when I discovered that Gavin, who was suffering the most from the stomach bug, had to go out in the middle of the night to find a shrubbery between the blocks of flats in order to find relief. He looked so depressed. Everyone wanted to get out of Poland.
It wasn't the gigs, they were the best ever and would spoil us later. It was the lack of sleep and the terrible food at the venues, the cold showers, the sound systems in need of perpetual adjustments, the bouncing around on the bus, all the little things that drained you physically and emotionally. The people were the best ever, the fans some of the best in the world, the reactions to the gigs mind blowing and humbling. We'd been enduring this for nearly two weeks. People were starting to break.

Saturday 26th October Bielsko Biala, Dom Muzky
The last show. I went straight to my bunk in the morning and slept most of the journey. I got up late and entered the venue to discover a beautiful theatre, all seated. It was sold out plus, around 900 for our farewell to Poland.
No MPIK today so I stayed in the bus till around 4, sleeping off the Zubrowka. Testing my voice in the shower it was all on song. We'd been offered a hotel that night, a five star. The owner had said we could stay there that night for free but found out on the day that it was a crock and that we had to pay. We were eating there later. It turned out to be an ornate railway hotel built at the end of one of the first ever railways constructed in Europe. The area was beautiful and a big tourist attraction for centuries.
Sound check was smooth and we headed for the 5 star hotel and food. Silver service, starched napkins, uniformed waitresses, crystal glassware and - would you believe it - Donkey Dick in breadcrumbs, greasy chips and cabbage! I was hysterical with laughter as were we all. Most of us made a pathetic attempt to eat and then left. We would have pizza later.
The gig was a perfect farewell. The crowd, crammed into every seat and along every piece of wall space were special. Another 9.9/10.
The "Vigil" walk through was special. Vinny had volunteered to lead me on the run from backstage up through the building and down to the rear of the hall. I left stage and was handed the radio mike. Vinny beckoned me and set off at a hare's pace up the stairs. I lost him in the maze of offices on the second floor and could hear Foss chording out the intro. A moment of panic, I was lost. Vinny soon reappeared and gestured me to follow. I was knackered from all the running and had to catch a breath before entering the hall.
The encores were heaven and left us with massive smiles.
We were staying at another hotel that night so left early. A local bar owner had kept his place open. We were tired but had to show. It was a day off next day so we were letting go a bit. The "Elderado" was a roadhouse bar and the vodka was flowing. Tommy Z had organised a "picnic" in the forest next day and wind ups were going down. I'd joked that we were taking guns with us and that we were firing AK47's. I'd told Secret to bring the camera as it would be a good idea for any court case that ensued about "who killed who". Reservoir Dogs in Poland! Tara took it to heart and was sitting across from Tommy, a monster of a man with huge beard and eyes that belonged to a Chetnik guerrilla fighter. He said we would be shooting deer for the barbecue. Tara was incensed. Tommy added that he and I had been shooting Polish tigers in the past and knew what we were doing. "Tigers?" She was fuming. Tommy and I were in tears with laughter. Taz turned round, pointed a finger straight at this colossus and declared "I will f***ing kill you if you shoot any deer". Total conviction and full on. I was on the floor. Tommy said "It's easy to see who her father is, just like you 10 years ago!" We were both in pain from laughing. Taz was not amused.
Back to the hotel and I checked in to find my room hadn't been made up from the previous guest. I didn't care and collapsed in the ocean of duvet.

Sunday 28th October Day off Bielsko Biala
I got up at two to discover the clocks had moved back and I had gained another hour's sleep. I needed it. Dragging myself downstairs I met up with the rest for the van journey into the forest. It took around 30 mins before we found ourselves unloading and climbing onto a horse drawn cart that would take us to our picnic. The scenery had been beautiful as we traversed round lakes and followed foaming streams uphill through the protected forest. The two shire horses steamed and huffed the cart along the forest road as Tommy brought out a couple of bottles of potato vodka and shot glasses. Breakfast! It took two shots and then the driver started to sing folk songs unaccompanied at the top of his voice. It was a bit magical. We arrived at a wooden hut with a huge log fire burning in a grate. Two chefs in full gear were sorting out the roasts and a couple of fiddlers and a squeeze box player were belting out folk songs. Vodka was flowing. Roast pork and lamb with local goodies filled us up and the gluh wein was welcome as the temperature dropped. It was a fantastic day. I can't remember much of the journey back on the horse cart. It was totally dark and only the common sense of the horses kept us from falling into the ravine that held the gushing stream.
The hotel was a blur. I went up with Yatta who on entering his room proceeded to fall over on the small table in his suite and crack a rib. We were both lying on the floor laughing our heads off, totally blitzed! The door was open and I was told later that the others who were waiting downstairs heard us through two floors, Yatta shouting out "This is f***ing rock and roll!" cackling away as he lay on his back on the floor.
I went to bed for a few hours sleep before we headed out and on at midnight. Tomorrow was going to be tough. But we'd done it. Ten shows, the biggest tour by an International Rock band in Poland ever made. We'd taken casualties and earned our Purple Hearts.
As the bus took its final depth charging on the road to Prague and we crossed the border, Hawkeye blasted out the bus horn.
It was a glorious and unforgettable experience. I'll be back :-D

lots of love
Onkel Fish

 

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